Should headers in youth soccer be banned?

Jul 2, 2014

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia

Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball with his head during his team’s Spanish league football match against Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, on February 19, 2011 in Madrid. AFP PHOTO/ DANI POZO (Photo credit should read DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images); Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Families are watching the World Cup, and some of those stunning headers inspire young athletes to get their heads in the game as well. But, a campaign called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer (PASS), are asking for an elimination of headers from youth soccer until kids are high school age. PASS consists of soccer stars, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone and Joy Fawcett, along with the Sports Legacy Institute and the Santa Clara Institute of Sports Law and Ethics. They’re concerned about the long-lasting impact of repeated hammering of the brain.

Advocates argue banning headers for the young will safeguard kids from brain trauma and will actually allow them to focus more on footwork, making them more nimble players. But others say more research is needed in order to prove headers are the real culprit for long-lasting brain damage born of concussions. Hockey and Lacrosse are instituting rules to protect young players.

Is it time for soccer to do the same? Should there be a one size fits all decision banning kids from doing headers? Or, do we need to wait for more scientific proof showing headers pose a real neurological threat to America’s youth?


Dr. Robert Cantu, Co-Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, and Medical Director and concussion expert at Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) — a non-profit organization wanting to ban headers in soccer until kids are high school age. He is also the author of Concussions and our Kids.

Dr. Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center. He is currently working on a study on the effects of repetitive head injury in sports, including from heading in soccer.  He says more research is needed before headers should be banned.



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